We all know that eating a vegetarian diet has beneficial effects for your heart, circulation, and health in general. But for a while now, some experts have questioned whether skipping the fats found in fish might make vegetarians brains less healthy. Combined with possible shortages of B12, some people thought that the lack of the fats found in fish oil might make vegetarians more likely to suffer from depression.
At least that was the theory.
In the June issue of Nutrition Journal, a new Study done by researchers at Arizona State University took a look at this theory. And it looks like it is wrong.
The study looked at Seventh Day Adventists, some of whom were vegetarian, some omnivorous. They all took tests to assess their moods and anxiety and depression levels. The vegetarians were actually happier. They also kept track of everything the subjects ate, and the vegetarians did eat less Omega 3’s, but they also ate less arachidonic acid, another of the omega fats. One of the roles that omega-3’s play in the brain is to displace arachidonic acid, which drives inflammation in the brain and throughout the body.
So, while further study is always needed, the researchers concluded that meat-eaters need the omega-3’s to protect their brains from the inflammatory lipids in meat, while vegetarians can get by with fewer omega 3’s because they are not eating so much of the arachidonic acid.
Arachidonic acid is the bad boy of the omega family. According to Dr Barry Sears : “The worst fats are are saturated fats, trans fats and (AA) arachidonic acid. I consider these to be really “bad” fats. Arachidonic acids are found primarily in fatty red meats, egg yolks and organ meats. This particular polyunsaturaed fat may be the most dangerous fat know when consumed in excess and is known as an Omega 6 fat. The human body needs “some” arachidonic acid, but too much can be toxic. Ironically, the higher your insulin levels, the more your body is stimulated to make increased levels of arachidonic acid.”
The thing with the omega fats is that they need to be in balance, and most Americans eat way too many Omega 6’s, like the arachidonic acid in meat, creating the inflammation problem.
Of course, depression is a serious illness and the human psyche is complex and wonderful. Nobody is saying that salads are a miracle cure. Still, it makes sense that you need to feed your brain right for it to work as well as possible. Diet can be a valuable tool for keeping an even keel and supporting brain health. So, if you, or perhaps your Mom, were worried that your veg diet might un-balance your brain, the news is good.
Ovo-lactos can get some of these fats and B12 from eggs and dairy. Vegans can look to Flax, hemp, tofu and walnuts for Omega 3’s, and canola oil has some too. B12 is also important to your brain, so vegans should look to either Nutritional yeast, fortified soymilks and cereals, or supplements.
Who knows, maybe vegetarians are a little happier because they know they are taking good care of themselves and the environment. But it is good to hear that the meatless diet helps support a happy outlook, from the inside out.